Wheeze

Wheezing is a symptom of breathing problems. A whistling noise made by the airways which may be narrowed. Wheeze, this whistling noise is caused by turbulent airflow like you see spiralling off airplane wings. For some respiratory diseases wheeze commonly occurs at night and may disturb your sleep at night often alongside cough or catarrh.

Causes

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The wheeze occurs when air moves through narrowed airways, causing a high-pitched whistling sound, mostly when breathing out and occasionally when breathing in.

 

Wheezing most often comes from the small bronchial tubes. However, it may be caused by a blockage in larger airways (such as from breathing a foreign object into the lungs), or vocal cord problems.

 

Wheezing may be a symptom of a severe respiratory tract infection or a chronic condition, such as bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma, or emphysema (COPD).

 

Other causes can be acid reflux disease, cardiac asthma, an allergic reaction to an insect sting, a non-allergenic reaction to an environmental trigger such as smoking, cold air, exercise or stress, or a reaction to some medications (particularly aspirin).

Diagnosis

Immediate, even emergency medical investigation and treatment is needed if:

 

  • The wheezing is likely to be caused by an allergic reaction to a bite or medication.
  • It’s severe and with worrying shortness of breath.
  • Skin, lips and nails have a pale, bluish tinge.
  • Lips or tongue are swollen.
  • There is an episode of choking.
  • The wheezing is accompanied by fever.
  • There is loss of consciousness or loss of voice.
  • And if there is panic and mental confusion.

 

If wheezing is less severe or keeps occurring without explanation, a physical examination and investigation into your medical history and symptoms may be necessary to find out what is causing it.

 

Investigations may consist of listening to the lung sounds, blood tests (including arterial blood gases), a chest x-ray, lung function tests and allergy tests, and checking to see if a foreign object has been breathed in.

Treatment

Steam inhalation may be an immediate help to relieve some symptoms; fill a room with steam from a kettle or shower, breathe steam from a bowl with a towel over the head or use a vaporizer. Other treatments will depend on what is causing the wheezing.

 

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